A walk into the Neuropsychology of Bipolar Disorder and Neuropharmacology

Bipolar disorder is a brain disorder that causes unusual shifts in mood, energy, activity levels, and the ability to carry out day-to-day tasks.

Episodes of mood-swings may occur rarely or multiple times a year. While most people will experience some emotional symptoms between episodes, some may not experience any. According to Wikipedia, bipolar disorder was previously known as manic depression. It is a mental disorder that causes periods of depression and periods of elevated mood depending on its severity, or whether symptoms of psychosis are present.

During mania, an individual behaves or feels abnormally energetic, happy, or irritable. Individuals often make poorly thought-out decisions with little regard to the consequences. There are different types of bipolar: we have Bipolar I Disorder which usually occurs in a series of episodes of depression which is usually depressive and lasts for two weeks or more. Manic symptoms also occur which mostly requires immediate medical attention.

The second is Bipolar II Disorder, which also occurs through several patterns of hypomanic and depressive episodes. The Cyclothymic, also known as cyclothymia, occurs through a series or numerous hypomanic periods of depressive symptoms lasting for at least two years.

In an article by Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org), it is essential to note that a Bipolar II disorder is not a milder form of Bipolar I disorder, but a separate diagnosis. While the manic episodes of Bipolar I disorder can be severe and dangerous, individuals with Bipolar II disorder can be depressed for longer periods, which can cause significant impairment; and although bipolar disorder can occur at any age, typically it’s diagnosed in the teenage years or early 20s. Symptoms can vary from person to person, and symptoms may vary over time.

Symptoms of Bipolar vary between people and according to mood. Mania or hypomania refers to mood swings. Some of the severe symptoms of Bipolar disorder include impaired judgment, feeing ‘wired’, a sense of distraction or boredom, missing work or school, or underperforming, thinking they can “do anything”, belief that nothing is wrong; and being extremely forthcoming, sometimes aggressively, etc.

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Neuropharmacology however is the branch of medical sciences that deals with the reaction and actions of drugs on the nervous system. The key understanding of Neuropharmacology is the in-depth study and emphasis of actions known as exogenous and endogenous chemical agents on neurobiological processes in the human system. How drugs affect the nervous system, the neural mechanisms through which individual behaviour is being influenced, is informed on the basis of Neuropharmacology.

There are two types of Neuropharmacology: the first is Behavior. which focuses on the study of how drugs affect human behaviour as well as the study of how drug-dependence and addiction to drugs and other chemical substances affect the brain and how people relate.
The second is Molecular, which is the study of neurons – messengers and their neurochemical interactions – with the aim of developing drugs that have beneficial effects on the neurological functions.
There are so many drugs that are used to treat neurological disorders such as pain, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease and many psychological disorders

The history of Neuropharmacology dates back to the 20th century: scientists discovered a basic understanding of the nervous system and how communication within the nervous system interacts or occurs. French scientists began working with a compound called phenothiazine, in the hope of using it to fight against Malaria. The research was found to have stimulating effects along with what appeared to be beneficial effects for patients with Parkinson’s disease.
In the 1940s and 1950s, scientists discovered and identified specific Neurotransmitters such as norepinephrine. In the 1950s scientist became much better with measuring the levels of neurochemicals in the body.  At that time, scientists also became better able to measure levels of specific neurochemicals in the body, and thus correlate those levels with behaviour.

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Neuropsychology, on the other hand, seeks to understand the relationship between the brain and behaviour: that is, it attempts to explain the way in which activity of the brain is expressed in observable behaviour (Elias & Saucier, 2006), and Neuropsychologists employ neuropsychological assessments using simple paper and pencil tests to assess cognitive functioning. In 1913, the term Neuropsychology was first used by Sir William Osler and was given wide publicity in 1960 in a publication by Karl Lashley – but was still left undefined until 1980, when Kolb published the first textbook defining the field of Fundamentals of human neuropsychology. Paul Broca also had an in-depth study on the brain that was termed as Broca’s Brain. Paul committed his studies to the phenomenon of how speech is understood and produced.

There are two main approaches to the study of brain injury in patients – neuro-imaging (EEG, CT, MRI); and neuropsychological assessment approaches (simple paper and pencil tests).
We often misinterpret the two in relating them to mental health. Neuropharmacology relates more with drugs used in the body whereas neuropsychology relates to the brain. Illicit drugs do not necessary contribute to brain disorders and have minimal effects on the brainm which can be corrected except with schizophrenia. An in-depth relationship between Neuropsychology, drugs and Neuropharmacology therefore needs to be critically established.

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